A movie this ugly either sinks like a stone or, rarely, hits a nerve and becomes a cult film for some vulnerable group in the cultural landscape.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

Re: Fight Club. In a country that believes the First Amendment means what it says, we endure periodic, self-serving eruptions from people like Rudolph Giuliani or right-wing fundamentalists, knowing that public outrage at any objectionable subject matter is the strongest barrier against censorship.

Free speech being a given, then what about the accountability of powerful people who fuel the fires of troubled times? Why do filmmakers operating in our violent turn-of-the-century culture continue to throw the ideas and tools of savagery into the public forum, where they are pounced on like wild dogs in the street by the disaffected and sick? The blame for the ugly Fight Club should rest squarely with the director, David Fincher.

Mr. Fincher, who is widely quoted as being proud of what he considers his black comedy, must be thrilled with writers who discuss seriously his "yoking together of gallows humor and smash-mouth violence." But this is the man responsible also for Seven and Alien3, a man who revels in the macabre details of the degradation of human beings. Look what Mr. Fincher has come up with this time.

The Narrator (Edward Norton), an empty shell wandering through the maze of catalog materialism and white-collar life, meets Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), whose face is a pale smudge of grunge life. After Marla, the Narrator will not wander the halls of IKEA any longer. On the plane ride to his new life he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), who draws the piece of unformed clay that is his seatmate into his life and under his spell.

Together they set up shop in a cavernous abandoned mansion where Tyler builds an empire of bareknuckled boxing clubs that spread quickly across the country in a kind of underground railway of filthy basements, soaking up as they go alienated men looking for a master. Beating each other senseless is their way of establishing the pecking order. With his personal army in place, "Project Mayhem" becomes Tyler's terrorist plan. He returns to his old hatred of corporations. They beat an executive in the men's room, burn down the Parker Bros. Building, mutilate one of their own for stepping out of line.

"I'd like to open the valves on the oil tankers all over the French beaches I'll never see," he says, and later, "I felt like destroying something beautiful." As the myth of Tyler builds, the plans grow more ambitious. They will blow up credit card companies and TRW in order to erase debt, and they will do it in one beautifully coordinated explosion, a plan executed by their personal army of robotic brutes.

A movie this ugly either sinks like a stone or, rarely, hits a nerve and becomes a cult film for some vulnerable group in the cultural landscape. Fight Club should sink quickly, but if it doesn't, if in any way it offers a new idea or new tools that encourage copycat violence, the blame will rest appropriately and excruciatingly on the shoulders of David Fincher.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 499
Studio : Fox 2000 Pictures
Rating : R
Running time : 2h15m

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